How to Fix Overheating Computer
By Stephen Bucaro
Your system works fine after a cold start, but after running for a while, it starts
experiencing errors, or locks up entirely. This is a typical symptom of an overheating
computer. In this article you learn how to determine if your computer is overheating,
an how to cool it down.
The first thing you'll need to do is pop the access panel off your computer. First
turn the computer power off. Depending upon the type of system, the access panel is on
the left side of the case (your left while looking at the front of the computer) and
you open it by removing two Phillips head screws from the back of the computer and sliding it off.
Once you have the access panel off, turn the computer power on, and observe if the
power supply fan and the CPU fan are running. Modern computers have variable speed
fans and you might need to wait a short while for a fan to cycle on. Some systems
have additional fans mounted inside on a side panel, or front panel of the case. If
all the fans are operating properly, next check for dust blocking the airflow of the system.
When a computer is a few years old, it begins to accumulate dust on the cooling components.
You'll need to remove the dust, but be very careful with your cleaning method. For
one thing, a electrostatic discharge from your cleaning tool, or your hand, can
destroy integrated circuits. For another thing, a vacuum cleaner can suck small parts
like option jumpers off the circuit boards, or can cause connectors to loosen up.
With the computer's power turned off, first clean the dust from any vents in the case.
Next, clean any caked on dust from the power supply's fan blade. Carefully clean any
caked on dust from the CPU cooling fan blades. Then remove any caked on dust from the
CPU heat sink fins. before closing the case, check the layout of the cables.
The typical CPU cooling fan. After several years the fan blades can become caked
with dust, and the heat sink fins can become caked with dust, greatly reducing its
efficiency. Get in there with a cotton swab and clean it out.
It's not unusual to find a wide ribbon cable routed directly over the CPU heat sink,
greatly reducing its efficiency, or routed such that it blocks the case's cooling
vents. Route any ribbon cables so that they do not block the systems cooling airflow.
Leaving the cover off the case, restart your system. Let it run for a while and see
if it still exhibits the overheating problem. Most computers will run much cooler
if you leave the cover off the case. I know many technicians who never have the cover
on their computer case. That's because they are continuously modifying their system
and don't want to be bothered with taking the cover on and off.